Following two ugly incidents in the Ontario Lacrosse Association within the last month, the Barrie Bombers Jr. C team has taken the lead in enacting new procedures aimed at making sure all officials are respected and protected.
Minor lacrosse was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons June 16 when a game in the Boyd Balkwill Memorial Tournament at Orillia's Rotary Place sparked violence.
During a game, a trainer for the Innisfil team was ejected. The supervisor of officials went to the dressing room area to ensure the trainer was leaving the building when that trainer allegedly assaulted the supervisor, leaving him bloodied and beaten.
He is facing assault charges and will appear in an Orillia court later this month.
Not long after, another incident occurred - this time during a June 28 game in Oakville. In that incident, an official felt threatened by an ejected player who allegedly confronted him after the game.
Bombers team governor Jim Lowe said while the Orillia game was close to home, it was the Oakville incident that affected them directly as fed up officials walked off the job and refused to work.
“We had actually suited up and were ready to play when we were notified that the game was being postponed,” said Lowe. “We are completely sympathetic and have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of any officials, whether referees, timekeepers or anyone.”
A notice on July 1 was posted on Bombers social media that stated the Bombers Jr. C lacrosse team supported the Ontario Lacrosse Officials Association (OLOA) in their demands for a safe workplace policy.
In advance of a new policy from the OLA, the Bombers have introduced new procedures that took effect immediately.
As a result, two non-bench staff from the Bombers will be available to escort referees to their vehicles following games. Any fans, staff, or players who attempt to confront officials leaving the arena will be subject to team discipline and, where appropriate, referral to local law enforcement and/or the OLA.
The Bombers will also have a "marshal" in the stands watching for negative behaviour toward officials. If fans are heard yelling derogatory comments toward the officials during the game, those fans will be removed from the seating area.
Lowe doesn’t feel it is too much to ask and believed it was the club’s responsibility to act immediately regardless of what the league was going to do.
“The league was certainly going to issue new rules, but we needed to, as a club, show our support in-house for the officials,” said Lowe. “It’s the least we can do as a club and we want the officials to know outright that we support them fully.”
The delayed Junior C playoffs for the Bombers get underway Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Holly Recreation Centre as Barrie hosts Caledon in game one of a best of three. Tickets are available at the door.